Merry Christmas from the 80 Days team! We hope you enjoy this Christmas themed “minisode” – this is a new, shorter and more focused format of episode we’re trying out before we launch Season 3. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this different style of storytelling (positive or negative), or indeed we’d love to hear your thoughts on anything on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @80dayspodcast or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Best wishes for 2018, wherever you are around the world.
In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be discussing the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO), a somewhat independent region in the Russian Far East wedged between Siberia and Northern China. Its capital is the city of Birobidzhan, and with 75,000 inhabitants it is by far the most populated part of the region. For that reason, the name Birobidzhan is often used to refer to the whole area.
Officially founded in 1934 as an attempt to create a Jewish state within Russian borders, the territory was the world’s first attempt at a Jewish national homeland in modern times, and today is Russia’s only autonomous oblast. Aside from Israel, it is the world’s only officially Jewish territory. As of the 2010 Census, JAO’s population was 176,558 people, or 0.1% of the total population of Russia. Judaism is practiced by only 0.2% of the population of the JAO.
Thanks to Louise Ireson, John Killeen, Simon Greene for your support on Kickstarter. Thanks too to Rabbi Eliyahu Riss in Birobidzhan for interviewing with us.
We also need to thank our sponsor for the season Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.
This will be the final episode for this season, but never fear, we’ll be back with more obscure goodness soon. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who’s supported us over the past year and a bit of podcasting, and if you want to hear more stay subscribed to the feed and keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For the Season Finale of the first season of 80 Days, we’re going to do something a little different and look at a place that no longer exists: Kowloon Walled City. Once the most densely populated place in the planet, this unique, untamable settlement existed in Hong Kong, growing up from a military settlement which was originally built to demarcate the border between the British and Chinese controlled areas in the territory. It grew in size and scope to become a tightly-packed labyrinth of illegal activity and squalor, unregulated by either the Chinese or British governments. At its peak, over 30,000 people lived in the Walled City, resulting in a population density of approximately 1,255,000 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,250,000/sq mi). It was demolished in 1994, shortly before China retook control of Hong Kong, but has since become a cultural touchstone, a fascinating example of what humanity can become when allowed to run unchecked. Your hosts are Luke Kelly@thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle@markboyle86 and Joe Byrne@anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Switzerland, respectively. (Theme music byThomas O’Boyle)
Some things you might like to know more about:
The name Kowloon, given to the peninsula north of Hong Kong Island, comes from the Cantonese pronunciation of 九龍, Chinese for “Nine Dragons” (gau lung, or in Madarin Jiǔlóng); the name was given to it by the last Song Emporer, the 8-year-old Bing (趙昺), who saw the 8 mountains surrounding the place as “dragons”. A clever courtier pointed out that the Emperor was also a “dragon”, and hence there were 9. The story is told here in HK Magazine
We drew a few quotes and a lot of insight from Elizabeth Sinn’s article “Kowloon Walled City: Its Origins and Early History” (Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1987, vol 27, p 30); for a more detailed account of this era, this article is recommended reading
When the Fortified City was built in 1846, giant stone name plaques decorated the main gate to the city (reading 九龍寨城, translated as Kowloon Walled City); they were excavated and can still be seen on the site today
Mark came across a cannon from the ship Nemesis(the British East India Company’s first iron-clad warship) in the gardens of Windsor Castle; it is pictured below. More on the Nemesis from Victorian Web.
Recently, Luke visited the Kowloon Walled City Park, which now stands on the site where the City was before demolition; he took some photos while he was there
Finally, here is some handheld camera footage by Rob Frost from the early 1990s inside the City:
We hope you enjoyed listening to Season 1. We’ll be taking a break for a couple of months to get production of Season 2 under way, but you may hear from us occasionally during the break. If you’ve been entertained by what you heard, then let us know – leave a review on iTunes (or wherever you listen), or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter. We also really welcome feedback about places we’ve explored and recommendations for where we should go next season.